To mix things up a bit I decided to review four stories in John Carnell’s last issue of New Worlds Science Fiction (April 1964) before he handed over the reins of the dying publication to Michael Moorcock, who would elevate it to New Wave greatness. Other than the James White serial Open Prison, which I plan on reading in book form when I procure a copy, three of the four authors reviewed below owed much of their careers to John Carnell, and would see few stories in print after his departure (see the individual story reviews for details). Only Barrington J. Bayley, writing as P. F. Woods, would see continued publication (and growing popularity) in New Worlds under Moorcock.
Of the stories I recommend reading William Spencer’s rumination on overpopulation and urban life, “Megapolitan Underground.” The others are worthwhile only for die-hard fans of Carnell’s New Worlds and other editorial projects. Continue reading Short Story Reviews: Four Stories from New Worlds Science Fiction (April 1964), ed. John Carnell
(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1976 edition)
4.25/5 (Very Good)
Won the 1973 Hugo for Best Novella. Nominated for the 1973 Nebula for Best Novella.
In November 1969, word of the My Lai Massacre (March 16, 1968), where American soldiers killed (and raped and mutilated) between 347-504 unarmed South Vietnamese civilians, reached American newspapers. Ronald L. Haeberle’s iconic (and horrifying) photograph of massacred children and adults–superimposed with, “Q. And babies? A. and babies,” the chilling lines from NBC’s interview with massacre participant Paul Meadlo–was transformed into the “most successful poster” opposing the Vietnam War by the Art Workers Coalition. Ursula K. Le Guin brilliantly channels this general anti-war anger, transposed to an alien local with colonizing humans as villains, in The Word for World is Forest (1972). Continue reading Book Review: The Word for World is Forest, Ursula K. Le Guin (1972)
Post-PhD job takes over… and books are not reviewed. But reading and buying still happens!
1. A supposed cult classic republished by Picador Press….. Has anyone read Smallcreep’s Day (1965)? Near the top of my “to read” pile. And I love Barbara Costall’s cover.
2. Early in the year I reviewed Conway’s short story “Mindship” (1971) in Universe 1 (1971), ed. Terry Carr. It was pretty solid. I tracked down the novel version which included the short as the prologue.
3. I was obsessed with Austin Tappan Wright’s Islandia (1942) as a kid. Not with the novel per se, which I never owned, but the lengthy and descriptive entry in Alberto Manguel and Gianni Guadalupi’s spectacular (and wonder inducing) The Dictionary of Imaginary Places (1987). And of course, the idea of Wright slowly creating an imaginary world that could exist within our own and only “discovered” after his death resonated with a young me…
I’ve included the map from the entry in The Dictionary of Imaginary Places.
4. And finally, another John Wyndham novel… although the premise sounds downright bland and trite. But then again, I still have not read a lot of his work and I know he was a formative voice in SF.
1. Smallcreep’s Day, Peter Currell Brown (1965)
(Barbara Costall’s cover for the 1973 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLXXXVI (Wyndham + Conway + Brown + Wright)
(Ed Valigursky’s cover for the 1957 edition of Eye in the Sky (1957), Philip K. Dick)
As the mapmaker in Russell Hoban’s The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz (1973) who creates a map that shows the places of inspiration, I too like to guide people towards voices that are worth the listen. I encountered the writings of Evan Lampe (@EvanLampe1) while perusing various SF articles on WordPress—his site gave an encyclopedic look at the stories and thought of Philip K. Dick. And now he’s following up with a podcast read-through (mostly chronological) of PKD’s fiction.
Evan described the podcast to me as follows:
“My main podcast is based on the idea of looking at American writers. I just wanted to podcast. I would have done it on Youtube but I do not really have the video editing skills to pull that off. Mostly, in that series I am driven to make a full-throated defense of America in these bizarre times. Perhaps its therapy. I guess you are more interested in my Philip Dick series. I think I talk about my motivations for that in my episode on “Stability”. It comes down to Dick being more culturally relevant than ever, with new TV series and a new Blade Runner film. I also never stopped believing that his writing is a useful tool in talking about many of our contemporary political and social dilemmas. The systematic approach will ensure that the stories and early novels will get the love that they deserve. There are a handful of aspects of Dick’s writing that need special attention (the frontier, post-scarcity, work, automation). I am trying to keep these most contemporary questions in mind as I re-read these works.”
Continue reading Updates: Evan Lampe’s Philip K. Dick Read-Through Podcast (and Cover Gallery)
(Jeff Jones’ cover for the 1968 edition)
3.25/5 (Vaguely Good)
To move past my variegated obsessions regarding William Kotzwinkle’s Doctor Rat (1976) (review + list of imaginary scientific articles), I decided to reread a lesser known John Brunner novel. I cannot pinpoint exactly when I first read Bedlam Plant (1968), other than before I started my site, but it holds up as a moody biological mystery with mythological undertones as colonists confront their deceptive new world.
This isn’t Stand on Zanzibar (1968), Shockwave Rider (1975), The Sheep Look Up (1972), or The Jagged Orbit (1969), but it left me wishing that Brunner applied his Continue reading Book Review: Bedlam Planet, John Brunner (1968)
(Jorge Hernandez’s cover for the 1975 edition)
4.75/5 (collated rating: Very Good)
Utopian dreams. Demonic spaceship cults. Grotesque cosmic pollination. Robert Silverberg’s edited original collections of novellas and novelettes strike gold again! See reviews of Triax (1979) (Keith Roberts, Jack Vance, James E. Gunn) and to a lesser degree The Crystal Ship (1976) (Marta Randall, Joan D. Vinge, Vondra McIntyre).
A few weeks ago I promised to read more of James Tiptree, Jr.’s fiction. With this in mind I rooted around my unread collections and found one of her stories in The New Atlantis and Other Novellas of Science Fiction, ed. Robert Silverberg (1975). This review pushed many others to the back burner…. It is that good. Gene Wolfe, Ursula Le Guin, and James Tiptree, Jr. do not disappoint. A holy trifecta?
Highly recommended for fans of intelligent Continue reading Book Review: The New Atlantis and Other Novellas of Science Fiction, ed. Robert Silverberg (1975) (Le Guin + Wolfe + Tiptree, Jr.)
(Tim White’s cover for the 1980 edition)
3.25/5 (Vaguely Good)
“Turn and look behind you, reader. Can you see the crater now? It is wide, round, magnificent; within it shimmers a sea of air above a sea of dust. Almost a million human beings live within this titanic hole, this incredible crater, this single staring eye in the face of an empty planet” (119).
In my youth naval history and fiction transfixed: from the capture of the Spanish Xebec El Gamo by Lord Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald to C. S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower sequence, inspired in part by Lord Cochrane’s career. I assessed each novel and memoir on whether or not I felt like I was on a sea-going vessel, holding the ropes in calloused hands, trapped belowdeck in a storm, yanking the lanyard on a cannon’s gunlock… With a dictionary of naval terms on my desk, I looked up each and every reference, memorized the cross-sections of frigates and the intricacies of the chain of command. I recoiled with grim fascination as Hornblower–fresh off the harrowing loss of the HMS Sutherland and desperate to escape the French countryside–peers at Lieutenant Bush’s amputated leg and checks the inserted cloth wads that soak up the leaking puss.
Bruce Sterling’s Involution Ocean (1977) draws on the naval tradition, transposed into a SF future, although it is more exploration à la Darwin and the HMS Beagle than combat à la Horatio Hornblower and the HMS Hotspur. Inspired by Melville’s Moby-Dick; or, The Whale (1851), Involution Ocean tells the tale of John Newhouse’s search for Nullaquan dustwales, the “only source of the drug syncophine” (23), across a vast Continue reading Book Review: Involution Ocean, Bruce Sterling (1977)